Is It Ethical to Have Sex for $ with Someone Cheating on a Partner?

Fri, 06/03/2016 - 08:13
Submitted by Betty Dodson

Dear Dr. Betty,

I appreciate your frank and honest approach to sexuality, Betty, and the way you and your team are focused on empowering women. Thank you for that. I've been wanting to ask a true feminist this question for some time: Is it ethical for a person to have sex for money with someone they know is cheating on a partner?

I get that the "cheating" part is mostly the fault of the person soliciting (usually male). However, one of the reasons sex work is frowned upon is because of this fact. Most women who are not sex workers tend to be very judgmental about prostitutes, which I think stems from this reality.

And I've noticed that female sex workers tend to have a very curt attitude themselves, that they are not complicit. That the wives and partners of these men are "not providing what they should". It's so regressive! And yes, I have had a personal experience involving this and it's been very upsetting.

Women tend to avoid intimacy with partners who have hurt them, threatened to leave, and/or have been emotionally absent, dismissive, neglectful, or abusive. Then these men go to prostitutes and claim that their partners are frigid or they are in a "sexless marriage" - yet there is no focus on why that may be? That perhaps this man has been the main cause of his own dry spell.

These prostitutes create GFE, PSE or other fantasy experiences, faking along for the money, as these men avoid dealing with the problems in their relationships (and continue being inadequate sexually, since their poor bedroom skills are lauded by the prostitute's theatrics).
It seems to me that prostitutes exacerbate the idea that men have to cheat b/c of their libidos (as though women have no sex drive) and even encourage trafficking and rape culture and male-oriented sexuality, where women are objects to be used, directed, and even humiliated.

I guess I'm really asking for your opinion on prostitution. I'm sex positive, I just think there's a huge difference between legal, regulated sex work and devious, black market exploitation (of both sexes).

The man who started the Ashley Madison site said that married men cheat mostly during and after the birth of their children. Isn't that incredible? A woman is willing to go through the intensity of pregnancy, birth, nursing, and caring for his child - but if he can't get laid when he expect to be, then boom - time to cheat or hire a prostitute! Think of the physical endurance, devotion, literal labor and physical transformations a woman goes through for their child (I'm sure Carlin can confirm this) - but the inconvenience of having to masturbate in place of intercourse for any length of time is unfathomable to so many men.

If prostitutes refused to participate in cheating - when they are aware it's happening - and were willing to quit faking, being humiliated, work legally (becoming educated, getting certified, being subject to regulations, and paying taxes) wouldn't that help legitimize their profession?


Dear N, What a wonderful and demanding request. I have a chapter in my memoir Sex by Design (available on Amazon) titled "Heat Orgasms: A Post Menopausal Prostitute." It describes my first professional "trick" with a girlfriend on a "double' right after I'd just turned 50. At the time I thought, "What a great way to celebrate my birthday!" During that year, I also joined another girlfriend in San Francisco for several more doubles.

So speaking from experience, I can't say how much I enjoyed being paid to have sex with men as a professional sex worker. During that time, I was also paid to run my Bodysex workshops for women, so I was already a sex professional. But since I worked with women who provided their own sexual stimulation, none of my prostitute friends considered me a "sex worker." Yet I knew I was!

As for your query about "cheating" which causes girlfriends and wives to hate prostitutes, thanks to Margo St James, who set about organizing working girls in SF in the seventies, her following statement made a lot of sense to me. "The main difference between a prostitute and a wife is the prostitute rents her body by the hour while the wife sells hers permanently."

There are many more reasons why marital sex rarely lasts a lifetime. Humans are not wired to only have sex with one other person for a lifetime. So the first BIG problem with cheating in my mind would be caused by the institution of marriage that demands monogamy. That's primarily a religious construct and you can be assured most of us are sinners. So guilt is a powerful way to control a large population.

The next big problem is the lack of a decent sex education for girls and boys. We are still using the “Male Model of Sexual Response” which is an erect penis thrusting inside a vagina. While this is the procreative model, it doesn’t end in orgasm for most women. In fact very few women will ever orgasm from fucking only! Yet today online porn shows women faking big screaming orgasms from being pounded by a large erect penis fueled by the drug Viagra. Once men’s sexual fantasies become our sex education, we end up with pre-orgasmic women who’ve been conditioned to please men by sacrificing our sexual pleasure. Women’s financial dependence keeps this unfair system in place and is the big reason for withholding our demand of equal pay for equal work. Still, mankind is slowly loosing control which is evident as more women than men are graduating with degrees in the hard sciences. The social changes coming up beyond climate change and announcing the presence of aliens will be establishing pleasure equality between the sexes. This might be the biggest change of all and by far the best. 

Dr. Betty

Liberating women one orgasm at a time

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Ethical Sex

Sat, 06/04/2016 - 07:21

N, What an interest post and question: Is it ethical for a person to have sex for money with someone they know is cheating on a partner? Yes.

I have a deep ambivalence about prostitution. It leaves me with very mixed feelings and contradictory thoughts.

My first thought is always that what a person does with their own body is their own business in so far as it does not cause any harm to another person. Thus if a woman chooses to make money through selling her body, her time, her sex, it  should absolutely be her right to do so free of hindrance. It is not my business, nor yours, to judge another person for the choices they have made or been forced to make.

Because my second thought is almost always, how real is the choice of people working as prostitution, how much agency or authority do they really enjoy?

It seems that relatively few people involved in sex work are making a positive career choice. Many are simply making the best of a set of bad choices and poor life chances. It is an industry rife with abuse and crime, an industry filled with too many victims, women with no money,  with out of control drug habits, people who have been trafficked, people with abusive partners.

And let's also be clear, my feelings would not be at all ambivalent if the question became personal: if one of my daughters grows up to be a sex worker, it will mean that I have failed as a parent. I will have failed to bring my child up to have enough choices, enough skills and opportunities to make better, easier, safer choices.

And yet to answer the question "Is it ethical for a person to have sex for money with someone they know is cheating on a partner?" the answer would still have to be "yes". There are a number of questions being asked here:

  • is the decision to have sex (or not) an ethical or moral question?
  • is it ethical for a person to have sex for money?
  • is it ethical for a person to have sex with someone that they know is cheating on their partner, paid or otherwise?

It's worth thinking carefully about what we mean by ethical. Ethics are usually described as moral principles governing our lives, where moral principles can be understood as either concerned with right and wrong, or concerned with the principles required for "proper" conduct.

Sex is obviously something about which religions and society have created lots of rules and regulations, lots of strictures about what is "proper" and "improper". The plot of many stories, plays and films still centre around whether or not it is proper or improper to have sex with person "A"  or possibly "A" versus person "B"?

When you look at most of these societal rules, they basically come down to controlling reproduction and property rights, choosing the most reliable mother or father for your prospective child, ensuring that the child born is yours and you can safely leave your property to your own genetic offspring, with no cuckoos in the nest.

With decent birth control, the original reasons for most of the rules disappear. Without the need to consider or provide for the rights of children or property, then sex is all about adult choice. If we are not having sex to make babies, then where is the intrinsic morality?

It's interesting that we apply the ideas of moral "right" and "wrong" to sex, but not to other bodily functions. We don't ascribe moral overtones to one person singing for another's pleasure, cooking for another person's pleasure or creating great pieces of art for another person to enjoy.

For all of other appetites, we do not set the private against the professional.For all other senses and bodily functions, we do not confuse the process with intimacy. I may eat out at a restaurant and eat wonderful food but the food prepared by partner, no matter how amateur (occasionally inedible) will always have more value because it is an act of intimacy, an offering up of who he is and how he values our relationship.

Like food, sex can take a number of forms and shapes. It can be expertly performed, drawn out or a quickie. It can be heartbreakingly intimate or stone-cold . It can be fast food or gourmet.

Paying for sex with strangers is not the same as sex with a partner, just like eating out is not the same as a home-made meal. A person using a prostitute is not typically trying to build a relationship, trying to communicate, trying to be intimate with another person.

Why should it be an ethical question to pay for sex for pleasure, for convenience etc but not an ethical dilemma for us to pay for our evening meal, to eat out or order take away?

Gordon Ramsey isn't going to send a married customer home to enjoy his wife's home cooking any time soon. We do not consider KFC to be immoral because it's usurping the home-cooked meal and destroying family mealtimes.

If sex itself is not intrinsically moral, neither right nor wrong, then it is entirely ethical for a person to pay for sex or to be paid for providing sex.

And it is the responsibility of each of the adults involved in the cash transaction to determine for themselves whether or not their choices are moral, not because of the sex, not because of the money, but because of the other commitments that they might have made.

It is the responsibility of a person in any relationship to behave morally, to make the right choices and abide by the terms they have agreed or to re-negotiate them or to walk away from them.

Is it ethical for a person to have sex for money with someone they know is cheating on a partner? Yes. Yes. Yes.

I think legalisation and respect is the main solution.

Sun, 06/05/2016 - 08:09
Jake E

If someone decides to cheat on a partner, the person they're cheating with usually knows they're cheating, wether they're receiving money or love. The person doing the cheating is at fault. Sex workers can't force people to use their services and pay them money, the choice is made by the customer. Spending all the money in a joint account on a new car without asking your partner is your fault, not the car vendors. And if you want to devorce someone because they've cheated with a sex professional then with the right legislation in place you could prove the infidelity with a reciept  ha ha

Sex proffessionals are likely as diverse as people who make porn. I can pretty much gaurentee even with it's mostly illegal status there will be those who offer practical help to people wanting to overcome a sexual problem. If the profession is legal with health and safety laws, it can open up and develop, just like any other profession with conferences and professional forums. Then it'll have an open diversity. So like any business sector they'll be lots of offerings that are not for me and they'll likely be a few services who's ethics chime with mine and I'm willing to use myself. At it's best sex work could or can be about sychology and emotional healing.

Also, keep in mind how many

Sun, 06/05/2016 - 09:12
Zoë Finds a Way

Also, keep in mind how many thousands of "prostitutes" are trafficked minors. I get that you're talking about consenting adults, but not everyone in the sex industry can be lumped into that category. Lots of men who are "cheating with a prostitute" are actually raping a child. Just throwing that out there.

sex workers demystified

Sun, 06/05/2016 - 17:29
bila kolbe

Yes N, what a wonderful post, and what intriguing responses to date have been generated. I feel that NLH has written one of her most prolific and profound responses. I continue to comb through her prose distilling kernels of wisdom. As sensient beings, we cultivate appetites to satisfy our senses, and as NLH so aptly stated, some of these appetites, like sex, are vetted with certain moral rigor. Then I read that NLH would deem herself a failure as a parent if her daughter were to work as a sex worker. Here I found a concept laden with innuendo, if not outright prejudice, possibly due to an exclusive association of sex worker with prostitute. From my perspective, the term sex worker encompasses many enterprises spanning therapists, counselors, Bodysex hostsesses, authors(like me), life coaches, and yes, prostitutes. Sex workers attend to the fathomless dimensions of human sexuality, some via printed and spoken words, others via physical proximity and intimacy. To the extent that sex workers are physically, mentally, and spiritually healthy; contributing to the betterment of themselves and their constituents; making the world more sex positive, then, i can think of no reason to denigrate this enterprise. Admittedly, this is a utopian perspective, one fraught with too many exceptions. 


Tue, 06/07/2016 - 04:20

When we talk about sex ofcourse you're right to say it comes down to whether we're talking about the world we're living in or the world as we want it to be, a utopia.

Living in the real world, prostitution is poorly regarded, unsafe and often abusive. It is hardly surprising that few parents want their daughters to become prostitutes. It would be dishonest of me to pretend otherwise. My comment was in response to the original post describing prostitution rather than the more general description sex worker.

If my daughters grew up to hold bodysex workshops, to write about sex, to be counselors or therapists they would be acting from choice, with autonomy. These are fairly safe, maybe even middle-class occupations and are not really the equivalent of prostitutes in the real world.

Fundamentally all parents struggle to keep their kids safe. Prostitution is not safe.

But Bila, in a utopian, perfect world, do you think that people would choose to sell sex?

In a perfect world where everyone has enough money to pay their bills, enough autonomy to make their own choices, where sex was not laden with such moralistic overtones would men and women still choose to sell sex?

I can imagine people sharing sex, more frequently and more openly but if you didn't need the money, why would you sell yourself? If sex was freely available without shaming why would you buy sex?

In the real imperfect world that we live in, we are mainly talking about men buying sex, effectively buying sexual consent from women who have no other way of paying their bills. Prostitution is a vastly unequal, dystopian interaction in terms of power in the real world.


Moral prostitutes? - Shakespeare says,"Kill all the lawyers"

Thu, 06/09/2016 - 15:57
feminist indignation (not verified)

Moral prostitutes? Shakespeare says, “Let’s Kill all the lawyers” ''Henry VI,'' Part II, act IV, Scene II, Line 73

One has to empathize with N’s marital problems as she may be we. But one also has to empathize with N’s husband’s problems as he may be we as well. But why cast guilt and shame on a third party because of their problems?

If it is only a sex problem this couple should see a sex worker, it might be Betty or Carlin, a hooker, a therapist a surrogate or simply buy a book on better sex. While sexless relations are symbolic of a tattering emotional bond it is loss of a couples’ emotionally dependent connection that endangers their relations not sex.

So why try to question or criticize the character of a prostitute when a sex worker’s lawyer can be blamed instead?

It’s true if we were better whores within our coupled relationships we might be better able to give and receive both sex and emotional connection. We can all learn from others how to be better citizens.

So N look not to blame others for your misfortune but join with your husband and find out about the mystery of love and why you and he do such odd things - in the name of love - that confuses your love for each other.

Check out the work of Susan M. Johnson in “Love Sense” Oh don’t forget because of Betty’s sex parties she and Carlin have some good tips for women and men wanting better longer lasting orgasmic sex. Still it is creating, a safe emotional connection that will really allow you to explore a long fulfilling relationship and fully use Dodson/Ross’s sex tips.

In the name of love - leave the good character of sex workers alone.

Connection of Partners vs. Ethics- Prostitutes allowing Cheating

Fri, 10/14/2016 - 08:05
feminist indignation (not verified)

Since reading and interacting with this post several months ago and reflecting on it over time, I am still put off by the scorn heaped on sexual people and sex workers specifically. The scorn seems to be a mixture of a prosecutor mind set at finding people wrong and amoral for meeting another human beings needs and their own needs. Sure prostitutes get compensation it is monetary compensation first and foremost for meeting a sex worker’s need for shelter, food etc. When people meet these needs they enter retirement a process made easier by healthcare and pensions for the elderly. Let’s skip for a moment both the hurt felt by the poster and anger at sex workers.

If one hears only the loudness and violence of the prosecutorial indictment of sex workers, one might miss hearing the question about, “How can connection be restored within people, between people and as community?” So the poster’s question is really inward looking and not about finding someone, a prostitute, to blame for a loss of connection within and between two partners within a coupling.

The poster puts it this way, “Women tend to avoid intimacy with partners who have hurt them, threatened to leave, and/or have been emotionally absent, dismissive, neglectful, or abusive. Then these men go to prostitutes and claim that their partners are frigid or they are in a "sexless marriage" - yet there is no focus on why that may be?”

Being afraid to connect emotionally in an intimate, dependent, attached, bonded relationship is all the more common within attachment relationships than ones that don’t matter. So being withdrawn, hiding, going off by one’s self at work, with a computer, bottle, coffee clutch, friends whores etc. is a logical response to being alone in the face of danger of not connecting with the one most important. Disengagement for all its faults is logical and all too often part of therapeutic counseling. One problem as the poster seems to point out, this makes things worse. Both partners, that means, both females and males do this equally and sometimes differently - but equally. Males and females in bonded relationships need to know their partner will be there for them. Not having someone there for us generates allsorts of logical actions (all be it counterproductive disengagement) with roots within our evolutionary neurology and emotional being. It is so from birth to death. This YouTube clip is relevant.

“How do we as a couple create and or restore connection?” is a very legitimate question. It is one all of us have a lot of trouble answering even if we know to ask it.

A people’s ability to connect with themselves affects a couple’s connection and their connection with the community thus these affect the community’s connection with them. How do we as community to support the non-violence of connection?

A people’s ability to connect with themselves affects a couple’s connection and their connection with the community thus these affect the community’s connection with them. How do we as community to support the non-violence of connection?